Died At Age: 75
Also Known As: Saint Albert the Great, Albert of Cologne or Albert of Lauingen
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Cologne, Germany
Famous as: Saint
Spiritual & Religious Leaders
father: Markward von Lauingen
Died on: November 15, 1280
place of death: Cologne
education: University of Padua
Albertus Magnus or Saint Albert the Great, equally popular as Albert of Cologne or Albert of Lauingen, was a 13th-century religious figure from the Duchy of Bavaria (in modern-day Germany). He was a Catholic Dominican friar and bishop and was made a saint of the church. While he was alive, he received the monikers Doctor universalis and Doctor expertus. Later, the sobriquet Magnus was added to the end of his name. According to numerous scholars, he is the greatest and most prolific of all Middle-Age German philosophers and theologians. Furthermore, he is recognized as one of the 36 Doctors of the Catholic Church. Albert was likely a student at the University of Padua. He later began teaching theology at the University of Paris, and one of his more prominent students was Thomas Aquinas. His writings, however, are comprised of more philosophical components than theological ones. Albert categorized the study of nature as a legitimate science within the Christian theology and wrote about a variety of subjects, including logic, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, zoology, justice, law, friendship, and love. He was designated by a papal decree the patron saint of all who study the natural sciences, and his feast day falls on 15 November, the date on which he passed away in 1280.
Childhood & Early Life
Albert’s birth likely occurred prior to 1200, as there is ample evidence of him being over 80 years old at the time of his death in 1280. Most scholars believe that his birthplace was Lauingen in the Duchy of Bavaria. His father, Markward von Lauingen, belonged to the lesser nobility.
He studied at the University of Padua, where he was introduced to Aristotle’s works. In 1223 or 1229, he joined the Dominican Order and continued studying theology in Bologna and elsewhere.
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Albert subsequently served as a lecturer in Cologne, Germany, for several years. Later, he held the same position in universities in Regensburg, Freiburg, Strasbourg, and Hildesheim. While he was in Cologne, Albert authored his ‘Summa de bono’ following his conversation with Philip the Chancellor on the transcendental properties of being.
In 1245, he obtained his master’s degree in theology. He subsequently became a full-time professor of theology at the University of Paris. He was associated with the College of St. James as the Chair of Theology. It was during this period that Aquinas joined his class.
He has the distinction of being the first scholar to provide commentary on almost all the writings of Aristotle. This led to his introduction to the teachings of Muslim academics like Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, and that, in turn, took him to the centre of academic debates.
In 1254, he was appointed a provincial of the Dominican Order. Sometime later, he advocated for the order after it was criticised by the secular and regular faculty of the University of Paris.
In 1259, he participated in the General Chapter of the Dominicans at Valenciennes. Along with Thomas Aquinas, masters Bonushomo Britto, Florentius, and Peter (future Pope Innocent V), he set up a ratio studiorum or program of studies for the Dominicans which included the study of philosophy as an innovation for the students who were not adequately prepared to pursue a degree in theology.
A renowned scientist, philosopher, astrologer, theologian, spiritual writer, ecumenist, and diplomat, Albert was the only scholar of his age to receive the cognomen, “the great.”
With the support of Humbert of Romans, Albert created the curriculum of studies for all Dominican students, taught Aristotle in the classroom, and looked into the works of Neoplatonists like Plotinus.
Career in the Catholic Church
Albert was appointed the bishop of Regensburg by Pope Alexander IV in 1260. However, he stepped down from that position three years later. During his tenure, he became even more respected for demonstrating his humility by declining to ride a horse.
The rules of the order required him to travel on foot, and he did just that, despite the fact that his diocese was quite large. Because of this, his parishioners started calling him "boots the bishop."
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Pope Urban IV requested his resignation as the bishop in 1263 to serve as the preacher for the eighth Crusade in German-speaking countries. Albert subsequently gained a reputation as a mediator between disputing parties.
In Cologne, he set up Germany’s oldest university. He is also popular there for "the big verdict" of 1258, which concluded the dispute between the citizens of Cologne and the archbishop.
In the last years of his life, Albert advocated for the orthodoxy of his former pupil, Thomas Aquinas. In 1274, Aquinas passed away, which troubled Albert greatly. However, the tale of Albert making his way to Paris to advocate for the teachings of his former student cannot be corroborated.
In 1899, after a significant effort, his works were accumulated in 38 volumes. His writings demonstrated his prominent habits and encyclopedic knowledge on a variety of topics. He consumed, expounded, and categorised the entirety of Aristotle’s works while keeping true to the church’s doctrine.
His main theological works are comprised of a commentary in three volumes on the ‘Books of the Sentences of Peter Lombard’ (Magister Sententiarum) and the ‘Summa Theologiae’ in two volumes.
Albert’s writings are more philosophical than theological. The philosophical works, consisting of the first six and the last of the 21 volumes, are traditionally systematized in accordance with the Aristotelian scheme of the sciences and are comprised of explanations and abridgements of Aristotle's relative works, with added commentary on contemporary topics, and irregular disparities from the views of the legendary Greek philosopher.
Albert’s insight on natural sciences was immense, and considering the age, impressively correct. Although, in the ensuing years, most of his verifiable achievements in natural sciences have been substituted, his general process of comprehending science is astonishingly modern.
Death & Legacy
In 1278, Albert’s health began to deteriorate. On November 15, 1280, he passed away in the Dominican convent in Cologne, Germany. His relics have been kept in a Roman sarcophagus in the crypt of the Dominican St. Andreas Church in Cologne since November 15, 1954.
During the first exhumation three years after his passing, his body was found to be incorrupt. However, in 1483, his remains were exhumed once again. This time, only a skeleton was left.
Albert’s writings served as inspirations for the iconography of the tympanum and archivolts of the late 13th-century portal of Strasbourg Cathedral. He has been featured in the works of Dante and Mary Shelley. According to Johann Eduard Erdmann, Albert was greater and more original than Aquinas, his student.
Numerous schools have been set up that bear his name, including Albertus Magnus High School in Bardonia, New York; Albertus Magnus Lyceum in River Forest, Illinois; and Albertus Magnus College in New Haven, Connecticut.
In 2004, the Albertus Magnus International Institute, which is a business and economic development research institution, was established in Managua, Nicaragua.
There is a typeface named Albertus. The Netherlands’ second-largest student fraternity, Albertus Magnus, was named so to commemorate the saint. In Rottweil, Germany, there is an institution called the Albertus-Magnus-Gymnasien. A statue of Albert has been erected in the central square at the campus of the University of Cologne.